Saturday, February 08, 2014

Blood giving, Blood getting

When I was in youth group in 1983, a bunch of us decided we would go donate blood. One of the guys said that he'd done some reading about how so few people who can donate do donate. He thought it would be a significant community service, he thought it was a great way to do something for your fellow man. To him, he said it fulfilled a mandate from Jesus. You say you'd lay your life down for your brother... but will you give him life to keep him alive.

This guy was always extra deep and saw things in ways that I never really did. I thought it was gross to stick a needle in your arm and take blood out of your body to go somewhere else. He was one of "those boys" who thought deep thoughts and said beautiful things and always made me believe that there HAD to be a God if there was one person on earth who would have the ability to see and sense these things and share them with us all.

It was really the first time that I'd thought of this as that kind of sacrifice. It is one thing to hold the door open for someone or give three hours to the food bank or the trail cleanup project. But another one entirely to give your life's blood to someone to help keep them alive.

It began to sound to me like a sacrament. Defining a sacrament, the dictionary says it is an act or rite in the church that is regarded as a visible and outward sign of inward grace. In most churches (I know this of the Presbyterian church) there are two sanctioned sacraments: communion and baptism. In other churches it is expanded to include matrimony, confirmation, ordination, and unction or last rites for the dead. In other churches, it is expanded even further where many acts are considered sacramental.

It is probably really disrespectful of me to some powers and stations above my pay grade to think of blood donation as a sacrament, but it is a concept I've held on to for 30 years.

We all went and donated, and I felt sick after and frightened like a small rabbit before and during, but also felt like I'd done something so secret and powerful that it made me cry. My blood would hopefully go to someone somewhere who needed it, and maybe save a life.

When I first started donating it was the pre-HIV years, the years before super safety screening and limitations on who can donate... people with piercings and tattoos were eliminated. Fewer and fewer people were donating as time went on. So over all these years, I've made it a point to donate at least once. At least. Sometimes more often...

On Sunday of last week, my doctors ordered a transfusion of 2 units of blood for me prior to having surgery. My blood counts were low, and numbers being what they were combined with the fact that I had a tremendous bleeding episode, they felt I should have this procedure.

When the nurses came with the bags, the "units," they go through a paperwork and confirmation that I am me and the donor number matches up, and it is almost a ritual.

They read and repeat things back to one another. And when they read "Donor Identification Number" it crossed my mind that my random number has been read aloud in hospitals over the years, and a recipient has heard my random donor number...

and I prayed for the donor, thanking him or her for their time and gift.

Someone else's blood came into my body. Someone's gift of life and time was handed to me.

For me, this was all rather moving, and I almost cried a little but didn't want the nurses to think I was crying because I was scared or a baby. I thought it might be harder to explain to them why there were tears.

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